Karl Riabowol

Dr. Karl Thomas Riabowol

Pronouns: He/Him



Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Professor, Joint Appointment

Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Oncology


Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute


Robson DNA Science Centre

Child Health & Wellness Researcher

Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute

Scientific Member

Tom Baker Cancer Centre

Contact information

Web presence

Phone number

Office: 403.220.8695
Lab: 403.220.8696


Office: HMRB374
Lab: HRIC 2A28

For media enquiries, contact

Kelly Johnston
Senior Communications Specialist

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Preferred method of communication

Admin Assistant

Benedicta Odame-Ankrah

Email: b.odameankrah@ucalgary.ca

Office: 403.220.3029


Educational Background

B.S. Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 1980

Doctor of Philosophy Biochemistry, Arkansas Medical Sciences, 1985

Post Doctoral Fellow Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1989


Dr. Riabowol is a full tenured Professor at the University of Calgary where he heads the Aging and Immortalization Laboratory within the Robson DNA Sciences Centre. Following training at Simon Fraser University, the University of Southern California, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, he held a staff position at Cold Spring Harbor Lab before joining the Cancer Biology Research Group at the University of Calgary in 1991. He served two terms as the Head of the Cancer Biology Group in the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine and as Vice Director of the Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute. 

His group discovered the first member of the INhibitor of Growth (ING) family of epigenetic regulators and they remain at the forefront of ING research, examining their roles in growth control, cancer, aging and stem cell maintenance. He has published over 125 papers and numerous chapters and reviews, as well as 10 patents dealing with cell cycle regulation and the ING family. His work has been recognized by numerous awards including the Leukemia Society of America's Special Fellowship, The President's Award for Creative Activity Excellence, The Noble Foundation Award for Research and most recently the Killam Annual Professor Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service. 

His laboratory provided the first definitive evidence for the inheritance of telomere length through the male germ line and has provided some of the strongest evidence to date for the contribution of telomere length to lifespan. His group continues to focus on understanding the links between cancer and aging, particularly regarding how telomere dynamics and epigenetic remodeling may contribute to this relationship.


Areas of Research

Area of Focus
  • Cancer
  • Epigenetics
  • Gene Regulation
  • Molecular Mechanisms

Our laboratory studies the mechanisms that are critical for enforcing the state of cellular senescence in normal human cells to determine how these mechanisms are eluded during the process of cancer cell immortalization. We examine the roles of tumour suppressors, telomeres and transcription factors in these processes. Several years ago we discovered a novel tumour suppressor we called ING1 for INhibitor of Growth that is intimately involved in cell aging, the Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) form of childhood accelerated aging, and cell immortalization leading to cancer. The ING genes encode a family of proteins produced by alternative splicing that contain plant homeodomains (PHDs) that interact with epigenetic histone marks and a LID domain that interacts with nuclear lamin proteins that when mutated, cause HGPS. These proteins also regulate apoptosis through their ability to transduce phospholipid-mediated stress signals resulting from DNA damage and to affect the DNA repair process. The ING proteins act as epigenetic regulators through their targeting of histone acetyltransferase (HAT) and histone deacetylase (HDAC) complexes that regulate chromatin structure and gene expression. Our ongoing research program focuses upon determining how we can regulate the normal activity of these tumour suppressors to block the growth of cancer cells and to extend the replicative lifespan of normal cells through epigenetic modification. We also hope to help define how mutation of the lamin A gene and its association with ING proteins causes HGPS accelerated aging in children. Work in our laboratory also includes examination of telomere biology and the role of replicative senescence in aging and age-related diseases, focusing upon aspects of chromatin remodeling and functions of the ING family of type II tumour suppressors. We are also establishing a new and powerful canine model for studying cell and organismal aging in which telomere length very strongly correlates to breed lifespan.

Participation in university strategic initiatives


Course number Course title Semester
MDGE 722 Nucleic Acids, DNA Replication, Transcription and RNA Signalling Fall 2021-2022
MDGE 561 Aging and Cancer/Apoptosis Fall 2021
MDGE 624 Cell Cycle in Cancer & Aging Winter 2017-present
MBT/MDGE 674.02 Molecular, Cellular and Microbial Biology and Immunology Winter 2022-present


  • Josiah H. Gibbs Scholarship in Physical Sciences, Simon Fraser University. 1976
  • Noble Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, Noble Foundation. 1982
  • Walter Nicoli Prize for Research in Aging, Nicoli Foundation. 1984
  • Leukemia Society of America Special Fellowship, LSA. 1990
  • Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Scholar, AHFMR. 1991
  • Faculty of Medicine Distinguished Achievement Award in Res. & Education, U of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. 1996
  • Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Senior Scholar, AHFMR. 1996
  • Fellow Award from Japan Society for Promotion of Science, JSPS. 1998
  • Faculty of Medicine Cochrane Achievement Award for Research , U of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. 1998
  • Medical Research Council Scientist Award, MRC/CIHR. 2000
  • President's Circle Award: Achievement in Research & Creative Excellence, U of Calgary. 2000
  • Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Scientist Award, AHFMR. 2000
  • UM/SCC Distinguished Lecturer Award, Sylvester Cancer Centre, University of Miami. 2004
  • Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Senior Scientist Award, AHFMR. 2006
  • Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Graduate Education, University of Calgary. 2006
  • Sage Award for General Excellence, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary. 2007
  • Sage Award for General Excellence, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary. 2009
  • Sage Award for General Excellence, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary. 2013
  • Thomson Reuters Designation Top 5% of Cited Authors in Biology & Biochem., Reuters. 2010
  • AHFMR 20-Year Support Award, AHFMR. 2011
  • Faculty of Medicine Smith Award for Distinguished Achievement , U of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. 2013
  • Killam Annual Professor Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching, Service, Killam Foundation. 2014
  • Award of Excellence in Research in Aging, Canadian Institutes of Health Research. 2023


More Information

Research Personnel: 

  • Stephanie Thibodeau, M.Sc. Research Technician/Lab Manager
  • Yang Yang, M.D. Ph.D. Research Associate
  • Harry Peery, Ph.D. Research Associate
  • Arthur Dantas, Ph.D. Graduate Student
  • Mahbod Djamshidi, Ph.D. Graduate Student
  • Katayoun Heshmatzad, Ph.D. Graduate Student
  • Tom J. (TJ) Bartizal Ph.D. Graduate Student
  • Alexander Hill, M.Sc. Graduate Student
  • Sergey Dadoyan, M.Sc. Graduate Student
  • Fatemeh Hashemi, M.Sc. Graduate Student
  • Yury Romanov, Honors Undergraduate Research Project Student
  • Hokan Krowicki, Undergraduate Research Project Student
  • Tarek Drissi, Honours Undergraduate Research Project Student
  • Nemanja Grujic, Honours Undergraduate Research Project Student
  • Benedicta Odame-Ankrah, Administrative Assistant